Monday, August 07, 2006

Mostly civilians - says who?

The mainstream media have accepted as fact without question that most of the dead in Lebanon are civilians. On what do they base this? Since they do not/can not count the dead themselves they have to rely on Lebanese sources as well as anti Israel organizations such as Human Rights Watch. What defines a civilian? There are numerous definitions but typically it is "a person who is not a member of a military" or from Wikepedia "In times of armed conflict a civilian is any person who is not a combatant." A combatant is defined by Wikepedia "as a person who takes a direct part in the hostilities of an armed conflict who upon capture qualifies for prisoner of war under the Third Geneva Convention (GCIII). "

In this conflict Hezbollah dresses in civilian clothing and attacks from within civilian areas. Does that make someone who stores and hides rockets for Hezbollah a civilian or a combatant? I would argue that they are a combatant. When that person, be they a grandmother or a 12 year old, is killed there is no doubt that the Lebanese doctors et al would describe them as civilian.

What is interesting is that despite the above "grey area" the media simply repeat the Lebanese line as fact without verification and without mentioning Israel's count. Despite this, Israel has stated that 400 Hezbollah fighters have been killed. Note this is not even taking into account the "grey area" of "granny rocket hiders", only actual fighters - typically males in their twenties that were killed in actual conflict ie bearing arms. We know this as Israel is making the names public by reading them on air in Arabic, and so it is a far more reliable source of numbers than what the Lebanese are claiming without any proof. The Australian newspaper reports "Israel has begun to broadcast in Arabic the names of about 400 Hezbollah fighters it claims to have killed, presumably obtained from identity tags.",20867,20041082-601,00.html

Leaving aside the "grey area" civilians which are highly likely not to be in a list broadcast by Israel, this means that of the 700 or so casualties that eg CNN is reporting more than half are militants not civilians. The phrase therefore "most of them civilians" is untrue.

Every media outlet just assumes that most are civilians and accept it as fact. History has shown that the Arab nations and spokesman have consistently blatantly lied about casualty numbers and Israeli early figures are far closer to the mark. Remember the "thousands massacred at Jenin" which turned out to be "23 Israeli soldiers and 52 Palestinians, 22 of whom were unarmed civilians, the rest being Palestinian militants. This was generally the figures agreed to by numerous investigations including the UN, HRW and Amnesty. All the while Israel denied the claims of a massacre but the mainstream media were clamoring over themselves to print the Palestinian claims.

Who can forget "Comical Ali" the media propagandist from Iraq that was claiming huge US casualties while Baghdad was falling?

More recently of course is the Qana incident in which the media quickly accepted Lebanese claims as fact that 56 were killed and still print that figure despite even the Lebanese Red Cross and others confirming that there were half that killed.

Examples of the biased media relating to accepting the Lebanese numbers as fact are everywhere: CNN
"So far the conflict has killed 92 people in Israel, including 35 civilians; in Lebanon, security forces put the death toll at 716, most of them civilians."

BBC have found 200 more than CNN!
"More than 900 Lebanese, most of them civilians have been killed in the conflict, the Lebanese government says. More than 80 Israelis, most of them soldiers, have also been killed."

How can Reuters be trusted with their reports when they have admitted that photos that they have published have been doctored?

Furthermore it should be noted that while Hezbollah is a militia that comprises of professional soldiers (there is no "draft"), Israel's army is made up of civilian conscripts the vast majority are reservists that by law are required to become soldiers when called upon to defend the country. One could almost argue that most Israeli army casualties are more "civilian" than Hezbolla's civilian dressed fighters.

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